UKRAINE, POLAND, U.K. BEGIN PEACEKEEPING EXERCISE. A week-long peacekeeping exercise involving some 420 paratroopers from the U.K., Poland, and Ukraine began at a military base in southern Ukraine on 16 September. The paratroopers are taking part in a simulated ethnic conflict at the Shirokiy Lan military base, 400 kilometers south of Kyiv. Defense Ministry spokesman Ihor Melnichuk said the paratroopers will practice trying to prevent such a conflict from developing into civil war. "Kozatskiy Steppe '97" is the second major military exercise in Ukraine within the last month to involve NATO troops. "Sea Breeze '97" took place off the Crimean coast in August, with the participation of soldiers from the U.S., Turkey, and Eastern Europe.
ROMANIAN PRESIDENT REOPENS UKRAINIAN SCHOOL. Emil Constantinescu on 15 September reopened a high school in the northern town of Sighetu Marmatiei, two kilometers from the Romanian-Ukrainian frontier, for Romania's 300,000-strong ethnic Ukrainian community, Reuters reported. The school, named after Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, was opened in 1945 and closed by Romanian authorities in 1968 on the grounds that there were too few pupils. Some 200 students have enrolled for the current academic year. Constantinescu said the reopening marked Romania's respect for its ethnic Ukrainian minority.
MOLDOVA, UKRAINE DISCUSS PLANNED CUSTOMS UNION. A Ukrainian government delegation spent two days in Chisinau to discuss the creation of a proposed customs union between the two countries, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 September. Viktor Gladush, Ukrainian first deputy minister for foreign economic relations and trade, and Moldovan Deputy Minister for the Economy Dumitru Bragis signed a protocol on setting up the planned union. They also agreed on the composition of working groups to achieve that goal.